The Trees Of Jardin
Preview Of Upcoming Book
Chapter I - Ship To The Stars
Esker, William, and Gary Timsmith decided one day to leave the home of their Grandfather. A contemptibly dreary place, Grandfather Timsmith was a decrepit, nasty man, bound to an electric wheelchair that he sped around in like a chariot. Purposefully charging at his grandchildren just to make them scamper, or occasionally hit them, sending them sprawling on his hardwood floors.
Bruises and occasional drops of blood would bring joy to that old demon, who all day would harass and abuse those in his care out of pure nastiness. No one else lived in the large, stone mansion by the sea, except the old man and his three grandkids.
Twin boys and their little sister, who were passed off to a particularly nasty relative after their parents drowned at sea. Aunts, uncles and cousins wouldn’t take them on as they were seen as a burden in the current climate of economic decline, so that left the cruel patriarch of the Timsmith family.
Living under his abusive tyranny for over two years, they had to learn independence and to survive and make do with very little. All their toys were destroyed by their grandfather, who had gathered them up in a big box, and despite the children’s protest, threw them into the fire.
The twins toy soldiers they got for their birthday before their parents died were melted, and Esker’s stuffed animals were incinerated making her cry for days. With no one else around and being trapped by miles of empty moors and near constant rain weather, the children were never schooled, or given proper care.
Locked away in their shared room for most of the time, they were fed dry, stale food that their grandfather had stashed in the cellar. Decades worth of supplies of dehydrated and preserved food, enough so, he never had to order for groceries to be delivered.
Isolated from the world on a rocky coastline, Grandfather Timsmith resided in his castle mansion, and from there lived alone before he got custody of his grandkids. The children believed he only wanted them to torture them, and to be unpaid servants who would be worked, dusting off shelves, cleaning his massive windows, and beating the dirt out of rugs. Tiring work that resulted in the children growing gray skinned, frail bodied, and with massive black bags under their eyes.
Formerly spritely children, the boys and girls had become pinnacles of ill-health, and gloomy outlooks.
One day after Gary had his leg bruised from being run over by their grandfather’s wheelchair, they went to their bedroom, just as they heard their grandfather lock them in for the night. Snow was beginning to fall, and the children estimated from an old calendar they found while cleaning one day that Christmas was coming up, what day exactly they didn’t know.
“Do you think Santa will come this year?” Esker wistfully looked out the window, and imagined the gift-giving saint would soar over their heads as they slept one day, and deliver them some playthings.
“Did he come the last two years?” Gary was in a particular foul mood, his leg was bruised and he was harsher to his little sister then he meant.
“Yeah.” Esker was overcome with a soul crushing depression. “Grandpa would probably burn whatever he gives us.”
William being the most grown up of the three, and tried to comfort his siblings. “Don’t worry this cannot go on forever.” His optimistic remark wasn’t bolstered by his hopeful outlook, so it came off a tired rehearsal of speeches past.
“Wouldn’t be great to fly away on one of those.” Gary pointed to the calendar. It was an old calendar that one of their aunts, uncles, or even their parents owned in their youth. Left behind as they grew up and left the dreary mansion behind to have their own lives.
Space Adventure Calendar for 19XX, a calendar inspired by space adventure serials and pulps of the day, showing detailed art of outer space adventures. On December there was a picture of a beautiful woman, wearing an attractive space outfit, and leaning against a spaceship, with planets and stars behind her.
“Yes.” William had similar thoughts before, of high adventure to worlds beyond the cruel one he and his siblings now lived in, and would often dream of such things. Flying on space ships, going to strange worlds, but would often awake in the same dreadful reality he and his siblings were trapped within. “But it’s no use in hoping, we can’t get out of here, and we better get our rest now, or else we’ll be too tired to work tomorrow.”
“Yeah, and that old jerk won’t feed us his dreadful food.” Gary scowled at imagining having to do anything for that wicked old man anymore. The boys laid down on their mattresses on the floor, but noticed their sister looking out the window of their room.
“Esker, get away from that window, the draft will make you sick.” The window let in a fair amount of cold air, and the children would have to wear their clothes as they slept under their filthy, old blankets to stay warm. “Come to bed, here you can sleep with me tonight.”
The offer otherwise had her scampering to bed, but she was too transfixed on what she saw outside. “There is a ship outside. I swear there is a spaceship look.” Both boys rolled their eyes believing she was telling a fanciful lie.
“We’ll look at it later, but Esker it's time for bed, please before it gets too cold out.” William was patient with her, but he was becoming irritable from waiting.
“But…please look.” Esker seemed like she would cry if she wasn’t indulged.
Sighing, William got up from bed and went to the window, and to his amazement there was a spaceship outside. “Gary there is a spaceship outside.”
“Oh you two.” Gary was already drowsy and was nodding off.
“No seriously, right outside in the backyard, come take a look.” William persisted.
Giving in, Gary grunted loudly as his leg throbbed painfully and he went to the window believing it was a trick being played on him by his siblings. Going to the window Gary’s eyes went wide, as he saw what the others did, a spaceship, white and black with red siding.
It almost looked like the one in the calendar, but it was sleeker and didn’t have a beautiful woman leaning on it, none of the children could fathom what they saw.
“Do you think it's here for us?” Gary’s question made his siblings wonder the same thing.
Before they could talk about it some more, violent pounding shook the walls of their barren, deprived room.
“Shut up! Go to sleep before I knock you out with my cane!” their Grandfather threatened, a threat that they all knew he’d do, with bruises and bumps on their scalps as a reminder of his wrath.
“We can’t get out of it now.” William whispers to his siblings. “So we’ll sneak out when he has us doing our chores.” his siblings nodded, and then they went to bed. Each one too excited to fall asleep right away, but when they did, they dreamed of flying away in that marvelous ship.
Grandfather Timsmith was immediately suspicious when he didn’t have to wake up his grandkids. As soon as he undid the locks on their room they were spry, eager, and excited, such things he believed he had killed in their hearts.
Rotten in spirit, he immediately rammed his wheelchair in Gary, pinning his ankle under the wheel of his mechanical chariot. The boy’s ankle made a satisfying creaking sound, and the cries of pain soothed his wicked soul, as he peeled out the wheel on the leg, and prepared to back over it again.
However this time the patriarch of the Timsmith family was dethroned from his wheelchair by the other boy, William, who threw himself against the firm steel of the chair. Unbalancing it, and causing it to tip over, sending the miserable old geezer to the floor, the old man wheezed out a shrill scream as he fell.
“You won’t hurt us ever again, we’re leaving!” William declared, as he helped his twin to his feet, he was unaware the old man was not as crippled as they once believed.
“Defiant whelps!” the old man brandished his belt buckled, preparing to shatter William’s teeth for daring to defy him.
“Stay away from them!” Esker, incensed from years of abuse, picked up a heavy urn that adorned the mansion, and hurled it at her despicable Grandfather.
Heavy ceramic vase smashed into the guts of the Grandfather who doubled over in pain, giving enough time for the children to escape. Both siblings helped their wounded brother to his feet, and they all made a hurried dash to the front door.
Their guardian, enraged by their sudden attack, hurled the vase after them, it shattered against the stone walls, and the pieces of it cascaded down the stairs. Tumbling pieces of rock mingled with the children’s rapid footpace and the audible howling of the windows outside. A storm had come, a destructive snowstorm that would have the mansion buried under ice and snow for the rest of the winter.
Already the children could see their breaths come out of their mouths in ghostly vapors. Wincing in pain, Gary cleaned his lips, stifling his whines as he put weight on his crimson bruised ankle. Swelling from the pain, he was so desperate to escape he bore the pain, but fortunately he had his siblings to rest some of his weight on their shoulders.
Coming to the door, William tried to open it, but the ice outside had sealed up the seams, making it stuck.
“Children!” roared a vindictive voice from the top of the stairs. “When I get down there I’ll beat you till you're ridden.” The hateful and violent voice shuddered the children’s hearts.
“Hurry William, he is coming.” cried Esker as she held dearly to Gary.
“Don’t worry, he won’t touch you.” Gary assured her, as he was fearing for himself also, worried he’d be beaten till he would need a wheelchair.
Unwilling to let his siblings down, William hurled his body into the door, pounding it with his body till his efforts cracked the ice around the door. Still it was stuck, but he became possessed by something that scared him far more than his grandfather. Sacrificing his body and wellbeing for the sake of his brother and sister had become a destructive obsession.
Fanciful escape had consumed his dreams the night before, turning this escape as what he saw as their only chance for happiness. Not a happiness in the lap of luxury, but one of a life alone with those he cares for in a secluded place where no abusive tyranny.
Heaving back he threw his whole weight at the dense wood door, empowered by an intense desire he managed to open it a crack. A chilling swathe of snow flowed in, making them shiver at the intense chill.
“Feels like the North Pole.” Esker shivered as the cold wind touched her exposed arms and legs. All she had was a tattered old dress that still fit her after two years of neglect.
“You wanted to see Santa.” joked Gary who felt the chill make his bruises sting.
“Grandfather is going to make us see God if you two don’t help me.” William’s words were harsh in desperation. He was unable to open the door, and all three of them could hear the frustrated stomps of their Grandfather descending the stairs. Silhouette of the aged ogre spread down from the stairs, the shade carrying a terrible looking cudgel to brutalize the children, to their deaths possibly.
Steadily the wicked old man descended the stairs, raising up his walking cane that had a bone shattering brass handle. A spot of black was on one side of it, a stain that happened long ago when he had last used it to discipline a naughty child.
Terror filled the children as they saw the shadow reach out towards them, in a panic they all rushed the door, slamming their little bodies against it, cracking the ice with each tackle. Pained grunts came from them after each impact, which only became more taxing despite the threat looming and getting closer with each step.
Creaking of the steps sounded like a crashing wave of doomsday, finally threatening to swallow their small world in a deluge of pain and sorrow. Finally climbing down the last step in a firm echoing step, Grandfather Timsmith rose the cane up high with menace foaming from his snake's eyes glare.
“You little brats—!” The Grandfather’s appearance made Esker scream out in terror, as her brother in unison rammed into the door, finally breaking the icy seal. A flood of ice and snow poured into the entryway of the mansion, painting the walls in layers of frost. Both the grandchildren and grandfather were flung off their feet by the power of the blizzard.
Despite the cold, the children helped each other to their feet, and without shoes and socks filled with holes they went out into the white abyss, as their Grandfather violently screamed;
“Get back here you devils, I’m gonna knock your brains out!”
The threat pushed them on, and even the snow that stung at their exposed skin didn’t stop them, but the snow up to their knees slowed them, but the lights of the spaceship drew them to its direction.
Freezing, skin turning a pinkish-purple, the children were in weather that froze their toenails, and made their hair frigid. Already making it half-way, they considered going back, fearing the journey onward, but the way back was closed, sealed shut by their Grandfather who closed the door on his charges. Even in the blare of wind they heard the lock slammed shut, sealing their doom if they didn’t reach their goal.
Aiding his siblings, William half-dragged his sister, and pulled Gary on by his arm, and with their eyes blinded by the cold, they suddenly touched the somewhat warm vibration of the spaceship. William searched its side for the door, and gripped something, it pulled out and after a sharp exhale the doors swung open and the heat inside gently melted the cold around the children, who eagerly entered the warm interior.
Esker had problems getting up the slight elevation, but William and Gary lifted him inside, and once they entered fully the door closed behind them, shutting with a sharp click.
All about them were light, very retro looking computer screens and consoles like something from an old sci-fi movie. So subtly was the warmth inside they didn’t notice how the cold that enveloped them had been erased from their bodies.
Before they could fully grasp their situation, the ship’s engines sparked to life, and as the lights of the ship dazzled their soft imaginations, the craft took off, soaring into the sky.
Chapter II - Dread The Yellow Planet
Soaring up into the white haze, the ship pierce through the clouds, and all around the ship was darkness, an infinite blackness that frightened the children.
“I wanna go home.” Esker cried, afraid of the unfamiliarity of their situation.
“Do not cry.” Gary soothed her, gently rubbing her back as she clung to him, not wanting to look out the windows.
“This is what we wanted.” William reminded his siblings. “There is no home for us, only this, and we have to find somewhere new, without Grandfather or people like him.”
Gary and Esker looked at William who went to the pilot seat of the ship, and acting as if he knew exactly what he was doing, started to press buttons.
“Careful.” Gary was hesitant to go around fooling with the controls. “We don’t know what these do.”
“Well they got to do something.” William was tired of his old life, and began to press buttons that were next to a monitor affixed to the console. A dark green grid flashed onto the black screen, and the grid became dotted with many bizarre symbols. Nothing William had ever seen before, his limited education had him reading around a third year reading level, but he hadn’t been to school for years. So the symbols were even more alien to his weakened brain.
Less fearful, feeding off the bravado of her brother, Esker took the co-pilot chair as her own, and began to tilt from side to side on the swivel chair.
“Don’t forget your seatbelt.” Gary reminded her, as he was afraid she would fall out.
She pouted slightly, but secretly appreciated the worrying she missed her parents having for her for acting reckless.
“I think…” William started to press more buttons, till one of the objects zoomed in closer, and a planet flashed on screen, in monochrome black and green. “...this will take us somewhere.”
Pressing a large red button had a flash of white and darkness swirl about the window, all the children were startled by the sudden flare.
“Are we moving?” Gary was stunned, and held tightly on his sister’s chair, worrying he’d be flung about since he wasn’t secure to anything. It was then he realized his ankle didn’t hurt anymore, his bruises were gone, and he found he could put his full weight on his leg. “Hey, my bruises are gone.”
Showing William his formally damaged leg, who looked at it with cautious wonderment. “Why do you think this is happening?”
The boys were old enough to be skeptical against the fantasies of youth, and the bizarre stories of magical entities, and fanciful circumstances. Esker was still innocent to a fault, and didn’t think twice about their outer worldly escape from misery.
“It's like magic.” Esker said with a smile. “I wished for it, and it came, something to take us away.”
Her brothers looked worriedly at one another, fearing she was becoming too invested in their predicament, as they started to fear the dangers.
“I hope we go somewhere safe.” Gary said, hopeful despite his reticent thoughts.
“Me too, but let’s be careful, and not leave the ship till we know it's safe, wherever we end up.” William’s suggestion was met with a nod from his brother, but his sister was estranged by their journey to appreciate the warning.
Finally after a few moments, something came into sight in the swirl of white and black, as everything slowly turned into a steady black, the object came more into focus, and they saw before them a yellow planet.
Turning slowly, it was as if it were a lemon colored marble slowly spinning in the vast darkness. Light from a dark yellow sun lit the dreary sphere, as the ship started to draw closer to it, a sickly feeling of apprehension took hold of the boys. Something about the planet repelled them, but they didn’t know how to alter their course, leaving them to enter the atmosphere.
Yellow clouds covered the planet, and as the ship broke through them they scraped against the ship as if they were made of sand. Below was a world of fear-inducing architecture, both familiar to the children ingrained in their subconscious of a primordial age their ancestors experience, and completely foreign speaking to them of such bizarre rituals of blood and death.
The ship was taking them down to the center of a walled city, in an open stature surrounded by buildings made of sandstone. Overlooking them were icons of chimeric humans, appearing as devils in the memories of the children, who recalled them from some nightmare long forgotten.
Once the ship landed, the boys were apprehensive, they remembered their promise and stayed put, their bodies frozen in fear by the gigantic statue that loomed over a building with many stairs. However Esker was seduced by something she felt from within the city, and it played a malevolent trick in her mind, making her think it was safe there, that it was home.
Unbuckling her safety strap, she climbed down from her seat, and rushed to the door, trying in vain to open it to get outside. The ship seemed to have a will of its own, and tried to prevent her escape, having itself being pulled by the same memorizing power that had paralyzed the boys in fright, and was calling the girl into its clutches.
However a power outside overcame the ship’s resistance, and the door suddenly opened as if by a gentlemanly hand. Eagerly Esker left the ship, and as soon as she stepped on the planet, her mind was enthralled by ideas it was an Eden planet, filled with amazing sights and carnival attractions. Looking towards the large building with many steps, she believed she saw something that would capture the heart of any orphan child, her real parents.
Mother and Father were waving to their little girl, to come meet them at the top steps, without a second thought she ran to them, eager to feel their arms around her, and treat her to children’s privileges.
However during this were transfixed in the glare of the statue that loomed overhead, a formidable creature of impossible to comprehend size and shape, that seemed to move about in their minds. Gary cringed behind his twin, as the yellow eyes of the statue bore into his spirit, crushing it, as if it were a chariot rushing towards him, in an eternally going stretch of tunnel.
William however had been provoked out of his trance by the responsibilities of an older brother, he sensed Gary at his back, but when he went to feel for his sister he realized she was gone. Panicking he looked about and it wasn’t till movement appeared in his line of sight did he realize Esker had left their side, not heeding his warning.
“Gary! It's Esker, she is outside!” took a while longer for his brother to appreciate their siblings' peril, but when he did, he was the first to run outside the still open door of the ship.
“Esker! Esker, come back!” The calls of her brother did not stop her half-possessed rush to her parents, the phantasms of which waved her on into the dark interior of the building. “Come on, we have to get her!” Gary called to his brother, who ran ahead of him to catch their sister before whatever influence fooled her, and was taking hold of her in its clutches.
No matter how fast they could run, Esker had too much of a head start, and her desperation for familiar love had driven her on to the top of the steps, as she sweated and breathed loudly. Inside the gloom she saw nothing but the ever distancing image of her parents, who were teasing her, like an overheated mule with a bucket of water.
Gary and William’s hearts stopped as they saw their sister vanish in the darkness, and without regard to the look of the statue overhead, they ran up the stairs. Without any thought of the dangers within, they entered the building, and were immediately drowned in a terrible cold that was harsher than the blizzard at their Grandfather’s place.
Slowly they moved throughout the darkness, calling for Esker with voices shriveled by the atmosphere that surrounded them, however the gloom was dispelled by yellow flames that lit up from a pit. Casting illumination about, the boys saw they stood in what looked like a temple of some ancient civilization. Murals of stone depicted humans or what they believed were humans worshiping fantastical creatures of both man and animal features. A shadow cast over them and they saw a figure of a six armed man, with the head of an insect, wings of an eagle, and the crown made of contorted bodies.
Beyond the statue they saw a long chamber, and Esker was there, they ran inside and as they drew closer to her, calling to her, they saw the chamber was lined with thrones, empty thrones. Esker oblivious to her brother’s cries stood before one throne, where sat a statue draped in a cloak and hood of shimmering yellow.
“Esker, dear God, thank you for being alright.” William hugged her, but as he held her, he realized she was stiff in his hold. “Esker, Esker!” he shook her but she was transfixed on the sitting figure before her, Gary ran towards them but slowed as he approached the statue. Something about it scared him, and he dreaded the evil emanating from it, as if it were a monster from his dreams that suddenly took form in reality.
Whatever trance it held on their sister broke, and she nearly fainted in her brother’s arms, both Gary and William held her close, and were unaware the statue had become flesh and now stood over them, looking at them with gold colored eyes.
“Take me to your ship.” commanded the man, who towered over them, far more than any adult ever has in their short lives.
“Who are you?” asked William, as his sister lay dazed in his arms.
“Do as I say or I’ll squeeze the life from your sister.” The threat was not taken lightly, as when the man squeezed his grip, the color left Esker’s face.
“Alright! We’ll do as you say, just leave our sister alone.” Gary was quick to give into the man’s demands.
Lifting their sister up, draping her arms on their shoulders, they carried her, as they led their new oppressor to their ship.
Chapter III - Planet Jardin
Once the boys led the man to their ship, he climbed inside, and immediately went to the control console pressing buttons. The spaceship shuttered at the touch of the man in the yellow cloak, and was reluctant to do as the functions it was forced to perform. Slowly the doors started to shutter, and the children realized the man was going to strand them on his desolate world.
Hurriedly the boys brought their sister on the ship, and as soon as they got inside, the doors relented slamming shut.
“Do not interfere with me, the Yellow Errant does not suffer those that interfere.” warned the man, who seemed to intuitively understand how the ship worked.
“Where are we going?” Gary asked, as he and William tried to wake their sister, whose skin had turned a bluish white, and her eyes remained firmly shut.
“Silence.” The command the Errant spoke was as lethal as a cobras bite. “Do not speak again.”
That made the boys quiet, as they both figured they had been hijacked by an evil wizard or worse, who had long awaited an escape from a dying planet. Nothing on the yellow planet seemed right, and it was shrouded with a sinister presence. Soon their thoughts went to an innumerable parade of questions, as the ship lifted off, and the screen saw the yellow planet grow smaller and smaller into a black distance.
A swirl of white and black showed on the viewscreen of the ship, as they seemed to be moving faster than before, though they didn’t feel their momentum. The brothers shared a look of distrust and worry for the man who called himself the Yellow Errant. Something altogether unnatural was about his body, and he gave the impression of immediate revulsion from everything in their bodies.
Just looking at his yellow cloak made them wince in fear, and the way he controlled the ship seemed as if he was compelling it to obey his instructions, enslaving it to its will. Whatever pulled them to the yellow planet was now piloting them away, and wherever it was, the boys feared it would be alot worse than the last planet.
The ship vibrated a little, as the windows of the ship turned into a flow of a variety of dark colors, swirling about a black backdrop. Everything seemed nightmarish, and the children did their best to keep quiet, fearing the Yellow Errant would do as he threatened.
Finally another planet came into sight, but this one even far away seemed alluring, it had a sun, and two moons. Even from the vast distance between the ship and it, the planet radiated a pleasing sensation that wasn’t hot or cold, and everything that pleased their senses. The ship slowed its approach as if it was fighting back against itself, from land on the planet.
“Do as I command.” pressing his fingers into the console of the ship, tendrils of ugly yellow spread across the console. The tendrils sent vibrations into the ship that shattered the consoles, caused the consoles to burst open as sparks flew around, and made the ship shake violently around.
The boys tried to hold onto each other, their sister, and the wall as the ship took a nosedive to the planet below. Whatever malicious power the Errant put into the ship was destroying it, but had forced it to obey his wishes. A swathe of bluish covered the windows as the ship fell to the planet, like a bird dropping dead from the sky.
Swiftly it plummeted down, and the twins breaking their fearful silence screamed out in the terrible realization they were going to crash on the planet below.
“I don’t want us to die!” Gary cried, as he held onto his brother and sister. Esker fortunately was still unconscious, and wasn’t tormented by the realization of overwhelmingly probable deaths. William hugged them close to him, and breathed deeply as he prepared for impact.
The spaceship parted the marshmallow clouds in the sky, trailing a rainbow of spokes as it tilted from side to side as it was targeted toward the rolling green hillside below. Those on the land below watched as the craft declined to the land below. Sharply it fell, and just missing the hills its path was altered as if by an invisible hand, moving towards the sandy beach, near the waters of the Sparkling Ocean.
The land shook briefly as the ship collided with the land, its descent cushioned by a hill of sand, kept it from being utterly destroyed on impact. Before anyone could come and investigate the crash, the door of the craft was forced open with such ferocity it flung the door into the water.
The Yellow Errant setting foot on the sand, left the crash scene and roamed the familiar planet once again.
William and Gary were on the floor of the ship, as it was filling up with smoke from the broken console. Holding tightly to Esker, they knew they had to leave before the ship caught fire, or even exploded.
Despite trembling from fear and the shock of crash landing, they carried their sister by her arms and legs out of the ship. Once outside the soft breeze soothed the boy’s nerves, and they had more strength to carry Esker away from the ship, down the beach, where they laid her out on the sand.
“Her color is coming back.” Gary said enthusiastically, as he pointed out the deathly blue shade was dissipating, and a rosy blush was returning to her face.
“Thank you.” William said to the sky. Placing his hand to her forehead he felt for signs of her health, and noticed a warmth was returning to her cold body. “She is getting better.”
Both twins smiled at each other as they saw her eyes flicker, and open, staring up blankly at a blue sky that was littered with cozy clouds.
“Where are we?” Esker was confused, she didn’t remember what happened on the yellow planet, his memories of the deception were purged from her mind. “Is this where the ship has taken us?”
“You don’t remember?” Gary was confused. “The yellow planet, and you going into that weird building?”
“Don’t make up stories Gary.” Esker didn’t like having lies told about her, and rebuked any attempts to stir her memories of that dark place.
“What about the man in the yellow cloak?” William was more persistent.
“Would you two stop and tell me where we are?” Esker was becoming impatient, the missing memories had left gaps that her brain ached to fill it with something.
“Calm down.” William tried his best to soothe his sister. “We went to this awful planet, where a man in a yellow cloak kidnapped us, and made us take him to the spaceship.”
“Yeah, and he crashed it on this different planet.” Gary added.
Esker pouted, she was hesitant to believe them, but didn’t have the memory to back up her doubt.
“Okay fine, but where are we?” Esker rose slowly to her feet with the help of her brothers and looked around, her frustration softly faded as she saw the beautiful countryside. “It’s beautiful. Can we live here?” she looked at her brothers with a smile that her brother’s thought was long gone.
“Well the ship is broken.” Gary said, pointing to the now smoking wreck of a ship. “So I guess we have to stay here for now.”
Esker jumped for joy.
“It's like we always wanted, a place without anyone to bully us, or hurt us.” Esker was happy, but her brother’s were worried. The Yellow Errant was roaming about, and they didn’t want him to come upon them one day.
“We better look for a place to stay though.” William said. “You know when night comes, we’ll need a place to sleep.”
“Okay.” Esker pulled her brother's arms, and the three of them hand in hand walked down the beach. Looking at the distant trees, the towering mountains, and grass color hillsides. They didn’t see anything yet, it was like any form of life was avoiding them, but the boys could feel their eyes upon them, from pockets of hiding places.
Walking out of the trees, suddenly came a towering man, the sight of the stranger stunned the children, as they stayed still, as their eyes became trapped into his amber gaze.
Wild faced, the tanned man was naked except for the skirt of a tiger belt wrapped around his waist. The palms of his hands and sole of his feet look padded by some kind of durable leather, and his nails were long and sharp like claws. Eyes of a feral beast, with short orange hair with black stripes, he looked as if he were a hybrid of a man and tiger. Holding up a spear defensively, he growled, showing off his sharp fangs.
“Who are you three?” he questioned them, as his aggressive posture and deep voice frightened Esker who buried her face in William’s shirt.
“Stop that!” barked Gary. “You’re scaring our sister.”
A moment of puzzlement came over the face of the man-beast, and a sudden gloom of shame, as he realized what he had done. Straightening his spear, he knelt down before the children, and spoke in a soft, humble voice.
“I apologize, I didn’t mean to sound so harsh.'' The man-beast lifted his head from a shamed drop, and held out his hand towards them. “My name is Igret, I am a protector of these lands. I mean no harm if you do likewise.”
Esker, adoring the handsome face of Igret, saw a masculine, father figure in his face, and took his hands in a firm shake. She was blushing, as she suddenly became shy around the kindly adult.
“I am William, this is Gary, and our sister Esker. We don’t want to hurt anyone, we were just looking for a place where we can be safe.” William then explained what happened, as Igret listened with his face steadily deepening into worry with each detail he was told.
Once William was finished, Igret stood up, his face darkened by grim thoughts.
“I am sorry you have suffered so much, children, I am even more sorry still to hear the Bane Of Jardin has returned.” Igret turned and pointed towards a cluster of hills in the distance. “The Yellow Errant if left to his own devices will bring ruin to this world, as he has done before. Come children I will take you to the dwellings of the Nain Folk, they will help us further.”
Overcome by a protective instinct Igret lifted Esker onto his shoulders, and held her tightly with his strong grip. Seeing the envy of the boys, the man-beast smiled and went to lift up the boys, perching them on his other shoulder, as the children now saw how high they were off the ground.
The children smiled, and marveled at the new sights they could see from high off the ground. Distant places they wanted to explore, and seeing the movement of animals as they roamed in pastors in the distance.
The breeze was warm, and made them remorseful of their past selves, suffering in the chilled confines of their Grandfather’s mansion.
“What is this place called?” Gary asked, as it had been a long time since he had last seen such a gorgeous sight of the beauty of pristine nature.
“This is Nain Country, the divisible realm of the world of Jardin.” The word Jardin sounded as if it were a note of music that played beautifully in their ears.
Gary however seemed to spoil the mood with a question that suddenly malformed in his mind.
“Does the Yellow Errant come from this world?” The question was a grotesque note that made their ears squirm with a displeasing sensation.
William and Esker gave their brother an admonishing look, and Gary felt immediately chided. Sensing the children’s discomfort, Igret acted as if they were cubs, and playfully growled at them, and gently nibbled at their toes. The children laughed, and felt a generous love filled their bodies.
“Don’t fret children, such a thing brings unease when spoken, but if we keep it silent it holds an undeserved power over us. Speak your questions young-one, and dispel the evils of ignorance.” the children laugh, only partially understanding the depths of the man-beasts words.
“Alright…so…did the Yellow Errant come from here?” Gary asked again, and this time the question was met with neutral ears.
“He once lived here, but he left one day from this world, and it has been many times since he left that we thought he was gone forever.” Igret wanted to say more, but he held his tongue, and hoped the children would not pry further.
The Timsmith children didn’t ask further, they thought it wasn’t their place to pry into such sensitive matters, despite the encouragement to ask questions. Enjoying the stroll to the distant hills, the children watched as the daylight rose high showing off more of the wildlife of the countryside.
Rabbits hopping out of holes, nibbling on patches of clovers, unafraid of predators, as lions roamed the country, lazing down, satisfied from the meals they had during their nighttime prowling. Everything in the day was peaceful, nothing to fear for the meek who had been gifted the paradise that was Jardin.
“Look, lions!” cried Esker, who saw the lions look at her in curiosity, some followed behind them, acting as an entourage through their fields.
Passing around the hills that surrounded the beach, Igret slowed, as they came upon the open plains and fields that made up his rival's territory. A purring rumbling came in the man-beasts throat, as he sniffed the air, and let out a more menacing growl.
The children started to worry, as the children felt their feelings of safety with their new guide tested. They felt as if something was sneaking up on them, then jumping into sight a fearsome figure roared at them, making the children scream in terror.
Chapter IV - The Lion’s Pride
“Stop it! You’re scaring them!” snarled Igret, whose hair bristled at the lion man-beast who now boisterously laughed at his prank.
“Don’t be so frail.” mocked the stranger, whose lion’s mane wavered as he laughed with arrogant superiority from having got them unawares. The lions that followed them corralled around the tall man, whose height was a bit higher than Igret, and instead of tiger features, he was that of a lion.
Golden mane of hair flowing from his head, and growing down his neck. His nose was dark, and his mouth formed into a smiling muzzle that showed off his long fangs. Hoisting a large ax over his shoulder, he wore a toga made of lion skin that was barely covered in intimidating size and muscular physique.
Quivering from the shock of being roared at, Esker started to cry into the hair of Igret, who nuzzled her, and tried to soothe her with his affectionate purring. William and Gary were older than their sister, but even they teared up, and shook with fright.
Guilt paused the lion man’s mirth, and he took on a worried look, as he slowly approached them, outstretching his pawed hand.
“I didn’t mean to scare you…so much. Please forgive me.” he placed his open hand towards Esker, who looked at it with a flushed face, tears soaking her eyes.
If the lion didn’t resemble one of her stuffed animals she lost long ago, she would be more hesitant, but she took his hand, and felt the warmth of his grasp envelope her hand.
“I am Eóln, master of the plains.”
Igret scoffed at his rival's introduction, “master.” he muttered sarcastically.
“I am master, and as master of this pride, I hereby relieve you of your burden of this sweet little cub.” Taking Esker carefully in his hands, he lifted her up, and brought her to his own shoulder, as Igret growled in anger.
“Give her back, I took charge of her.” Igret and her brothers were worried for Esker being on the shoulders of someone, who just recently nearly scared the children of their perch.
“And I am taking charge of her, since this is my territory.” he nuzzled the girl to his mane, as she laughed and hugged the softness that surrounded her, making her feel nostalgic. “She doesn’t seem to mind either.”
Seeing the boys were more at ease, seeing their sister was enjoying riding on Eóln’s shoulders, Igret sighed sharply, and accepted the situation. “Only because she is alright with it.”
“What is your name child?” Eóln asked, growing to like the tenderness the child showed him, as he was used to being feared and respected.
“My name is Esker, and those are my brothers Gary and William.” she pointed to her brothers who were still stunned by the roar.
Eóln heartedly laughed as he saw they were still stunned by his powerful roar. “Forgive me Gary and William, I meant only to scare the stripes off this intruding tiger.” he gestured to Igret with a cunning smile.
“This is not your country.” reminded Igret. “Anyone can go through these fields as they please.”
“As I please.” responded the lion-man. “I am king of this territory, and you showed much disrespect coming through here without my permission.” he flashed his teeth at his rival.
“You just want any more of submission from me, to ease your wounded pride. Since you and I know, I am the best hunter in the country.” Igret flexed his chest out, proud of his achievement.
Eóln chuffed at the declaration of his rival and chose to ignore it. “Why not go through the tiger’s territory then?” he asked as he began to lick the tears from Esker’s face as she giggled at the ticklish affection.
“We seek a direct path to the dwellings of the Nain Folk. The Yellow Errant is roaming the lands again, and we need to stop him.” Eóln hearing that paused in his grooming of Esker, and a ferocity came upon his face.
“That monster dares to return.” he bore his death, and lifted high his ax. “I shall have his head placed on the pile of skulls in my den!” the anger that rose in him, he stifled quickly, remembering he had a child on his shoulder. “Come then, I will lead you through my territory.”
“Unnecessary.” Igret tried to rebuke the help.
“I insist.” The lion man carrying Esker, and the tiger carrying the twins, continued on as they were followed by a trail of lions, who eventually lost interest and went to find a place to laze about in the sun.
Chapter V - The Bounty Of The Grove
The day seemed longer than they were used to, the Timsmith children grew hungry and tired, even as they were carried on their journey. They passed through the lion’s territory without further incident, and were coming to a slope in the land, into a shallow vale that was home to a gorgeous grove of trees.
Fruit bearing trees of all kinds were there, some had fruit the children or any of their world had seen before, and others had things growing that didn’t belong on a tree.
“Hey.” Esker suddenly pointed to an orange bark tree with golden leaves. “Carrots don’t grow on trees.” She was right of course that from her world they didn’t grow on trees, the boys were also perplexed by the inconsistency between their worlds.
“They don’t grow on trees where you are from?” Eóln asked, amused at the little girl’s reaction.
“No.” William tried to reach for a tomato hanging on a low branch over his head, but couldn’t reach, however Igret plucked it out and handed it to the youth to examine. “Carrots and tomatoes for that matter don’t grow on trees. In our world they grow on vines and in the ground.”
“Tomatoes grow in the grow?” Igret was now confused on what he was being told, and he and the lion man shared a befuddled glance at one another.
“No, sorry, I meant carrots grow in the ground, and tomatoes on vines.” William’s clarification didn’t clear the confusion from their guide’s eyes.
“Well all such things grow on trees here.” Eóln finally said, resigning himself to his ignorance. “It is the will of the Builder after all, the Trees Of Jardin are to be the inheritors and giver of life.” Both man-beasts put the children down under the shade under a tree of apples, as they began to harvest fruit to feed their charges.
“What does that mean?” Gary was confused, and wanted to hear more about Jardin, hoping it would be their new home, away from the abuse of their old life. “Do you just eat what grows on the trees? And who is the Builder?”
So many questions had the former aggressive rivals smiling at one another, in a knowing look that comes with maturity.
“Well, I suppose it's best to tell you who the Builder is, as I haven’t heard such a question asked of cubs as old as you before.” Igret knelt down, and started to hand them an abundance of fruits and vegetables for them to eat, as they listened. “The Builder is the maker of worlds, he made Jardin and many more like it, with his tools and his own hands. Jardin I believe is his most favorite creation, cause after he made it, he chose to stay.”
A sudden breeze blew through, as if summoned by the mysticism of just talking about the fabled figure known as the Builder.
“Is he like God?” Gary asked, his siblings having stuffed their mouths of delicious fruits to ask any of their own, but since Gary was asking what they’d ask, they were fine in just listening.
“God?” Igret and Eóln looked at one another, and didn’t know what to make of the word.
“Who is God?” Eóln asked a question of his own as he sat down to hear who this entity was, that was comparable to the Builder.
“Well, we were told God created the Heavens, the Earth, and everything, life and death, he is everything.” Gary recited what he remembered being told of him at Church, when his parents were alive. It wasn’t till then that he remembered those teachings, he was glad to know he hadn’t lost touch of the faith his parents introduced to him at such a young age.
“Sounds much like the Builder.” Igret said finally after he thought of what he was told.
“Could it be possible that the Builder and God are the same?” Eóln wondered aloud. “He has made other worlds, maybe he made yours.”
The children were smiling at the thought that somehow they were all connected, it made them feel as if they had found a new family.
“Maybe.” William said, hesitant to jump to any conclusions. “So the Builder is the one who made these trees that grow all these foods?”
“Yes.” Igret looked up at the tall branches of the grove's trees. “These trees grow all over Jardin, from the tallest mountain, to even the bottom of the sea. The Builder wants us all to enjoy the bounties of his creations, and when we die, to nourish and be part of the trees, so we may give back to others.”
“Oh, that is what you mean by to be the inheritors and giver of life.” William and Gary were satisfied at what they were told, and enjoyed their fruit. Esker however having had a long day, was sleepy, and stuffed with fruit, her face was soak with sweet juices that Igret took care to lick away from her face, as if she were his own cub.
The boys, not wanting such care, paid to them, cleaned their hands on the grass, and wiped their faces on their tattered shirts. Sleep was coming over the youths, and they felt so at ease they began to slowly nod off, laying back under the shade of the tree, and quietly dozing off.
Igret and Eóln were also sleepy, taking the cue from the children, laid back and slept next to the children, forming a protective ring around their charges. Once they were all asleep, the breeze started to blow a warm air that covered them as if it were a blanket, placed on them by unseen hands.
Waking up before the others, William felt the heat of the day was mild, yet it kept the chill from his bare skin. He expected the sun to be low if not completely gone from the sky, by how long he felt he slept. Surprisingly the sun barely moved past its high point in the sky, and answering the call of nature, went off to relieve the pressures of digestion.
Returning to where his siblings slept, he saw Igret was up, and he was sharpening his claws and spear on the bark of one of the trees.
“It's still day out?” William was wondering why the day seemed to last longer than usual.
“Of course.” the man-beast said, as he stretched up, acting like a lazy house cat bathing in a batch of sunlight. “Jardin has long days…but even longer nights. You should be safe with the Nain folk before then, I wouldn’t want you to get hurt during the night.”
“Why? What happens at night?” William was concerned by the sullen attitude the man-beast was showing, as if he was being bothered by a terrible thought.
“At night we are permitted to hunt, the flesh eaters of the world, we get to hunt for game of all kinds, that is why it is best for the young and defenseless to stay safely indoors during that time. For when night falls, I and others of my kind become less…kind.'' He let out a chuff, Igret was sorrowful at the thought of hurting the children, as he felt a strong bond with them, after such a short time.
“I am sure you wouldn’t.” William placed an affectionate hand on the man-beasts broad shoulders.
“I may not…but others would, Jardin is a place for both hunters and hunted, we live in this tentative harmony. Remember William, if you roam out at night, that if you are not the hunter, you’re the prey.” the tiger man rose to his feet. Looking down on William with eyes that gleamed with a bestial nature, one that made the boy fearful to look upon, as clouds covered the sun momentarily.
In those moments the eyes of his protector glowed, and he saw the unsettling truth in Igret’s words. “I understand.” was all he could say, then the clouds flowed by and the light returned to the grove.
“Keep your brother and sister safe, they have become dear to me.” Igret blushed some, feeling slightly embarrassed at the bond he had with the Timsmith children.
Soon the tension faded as Esker awoke, her yawning stirring Eóln awake, whose soft roar of a yawn woke Gary.
“Is it still daylight?” Gary said as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.
“Yes, the days are longer here.” Williams said, sharing a knowing look with Igret.
“But night will come, and we have to get to the Nain folk before then.” lifting the boys upon his shoulders again, Eóln picked up Esker, and together they continued their way through the grove. The boys were wide awake now, but Esker was lulled by the comforts she found surrounding her, and leaned into Eóln’s who softly purred at feeling her weight against his head.
“Sweet cub, you should be my daughter, you can be the princess of my pride.” the man-lion spoke softly, and even though Esker was too sleepy to hear, her brothers and Igret heard.
“She should stay with her brothers, and be part of my people, I would have them for my own.” The tiger was jealous of the covetous claim the lion made upon the girl.
“I would take all the children if it is my wish, be grateful I have so many sons, and yet not one daughter. She will be a princess of lions.” Eóln’s eyes became bright as he lifted his ax, to protect his claim on the girl.
“And would you keep her safe at night? When the wolves prowl and the bears scrounge in dens for young flesh?” Igret rose his spear to meet the ax, but he didn’t attack, feeling the tenseness of the boys upon his shoulder.
“No one intrudes on the den of a king, she will be safe there, where I will bring her dresses made of the softest furs, and toys I have made from her by the Nain folk. She will want for nothing.” Eóln bared his teeth, as his anger started to rise, but he kept his temper in check, not wanting to disturb what he wanted to be his new daughter.
“Except her brothers, you’d separate her from the family she has always known, for your own wants, typical of lions.” Igret moved in the way of Eóln to stop his way. “No matter what, the children stay together.”
They locked eyes, their hair bristled, they showed their teeth in angry snarls, and after a standoff, it ended with Eóln growling softly. “They will stay together.” He relented to his rivals' will, but not entirely. “I don’t mind having two more sons.”
“And I won’t mind having three cubs in my clan.” Igret did not relent his own claim. “We shall ask them when the time comes which of us they want.”
Fear mingled with excitement, and joy, they were wanted, these magnificent protectors wanted them for their own. Gary and William smiled at one another, and each hoped they could be shared amongst their nurturing father-like figures. Before they could go onward, a shade cast before them, and for a moment it seemed a blot of nighttime existed in broad daylight.
“The Builder’s Hammer! The Doré Witch, don’t let her cast her enchantment!” Igret snarled viciously, as he heaved his spear, preparing to throw it at the wicked hag.
William and Gary held onto his shoulders as he leaned back, and after taking a launching posture, flung his weapon at the wretched creature. Striking the shade, the darkness shrouding the figure expunged itself, and the spear was flung back. Standing fully revealed was a crooked, serpentine creature that looked as if it could’ve been a really old woman, but no human could look so horrible.
Dressed in a shabby gown of gold fabric, she pointed at the children and their protector and spoke an evil sounding language.
Shrill cackles came from the shade, which startled Esker awoke, who felt herself being placed on the ground. Unsure what was happening, she wanted to follow Eóln, but Igret held her back, as Eóln raised his axe, intending on smiting the vindictive hag before she finished speaking her incantation.
Metal of the weapon sliced into the hags neg, splitting her torso in two, she let out a heavy croak after the strike and went silent. As her body deflated after being sliced open, she shriveled up into a nasty stain upon the grass.
Unfortunately her spell was complete, and already the sun began to move, no longer was it going at its own slow pace. Wicked sorcery has compelled it to move far faster, and before the beast-men realized what was happening, dusk was already happening.
“Quickly, climb the tree cubs.” Igret in panic hoisted the boys on the tallest branch of a tree he could reach, and lifted Esker to her brothers. “Climb the tree, till you can’t climb anymore, and don’t come down till morning!” Igret’s words were harshly spoken, and his voice was snarling, growling, as he seemed to be straining to hold back some terrible impulse.
“Don’t come down, not till morning.” Echoed Eóln. “We cannot protect you, the red moon comes.” suddenly after a brief shroud of darkness blotted out all light, suddenly a harsh crimson light appeared in the sky. The red moon was full, and cast the land in a blood red light, that made the peaceful world the children had come to know, into a sinister place.
Giving in to their predatory instincts, the beast-men let out thunderous howls, and were joined by other cries of the hunter that echoed across the land. Engulfed in bloodlust, Igret and Eóln took up their weapons, and went out into the night, to feast upon those caught outside during the Hunter’s Night.
As the children clung to one another, terrified at the harshly sudden change that came over their newly made friends, who now have taken on monstrous behaviors. Esker, confused, wanted to ask what was happening, but the cries of prey, caught completely unawares, were scared to hear too much to even speak. Burying her face in William’s side, he held her tight, as the boys looked out into the red drenched night.
Watching as animals and what look like people were caught unawares by the sudden nightfall, and were made the meals of suddenly vicious beasts. Staying high in the trees, they hoped they would not be one of those unfortunates who would not live to see the day.
***Story Ends Here For Now, Please Wait For Announcement Of The Release Of The Full Book, The Trees Of Jardin***